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I’m rather surprised to be one of the first to review this whisky, given the attention it’s received in the forums and blogs during the last year. It took a while to find its way here to northwest Indiana, and I’ve been drooling in anticipation like my dog waiting for the remnants of a bacon cheeseburger. I visited my local libationist this afternoon, having planned and budgeted for a twin-pack of Old Pulteney half-bottles (12 & 17 yo – great deal if you can find it!), but I was more than willing, delighted in fact, to change my plans once I saw this big blue beast on the shelf. It was even on sale, so I saved the extra ten bucks I would have spent on the Old Pulteneys.
I’m by nature a skeptic, and I’ve been misled in the past by reviews and popularity (see my review of Aberlour A’bunadh), so I will approach this with a healthy dose of “Hmm, we’ll see.” This will also be a first-time-tasting review, written as I go along here…
First, however, a quick side note about the packaging. What looked so wrong in the pix I’ve seen online, what with the teal overkill and self-aware austerity, looks downright bold and ballsy up close and in person. The container’s even all-metal, the kind you want to save for display or a poor man’s flower pot (assuming poor men buy sixty-dollar bottles of whisky). Very imposing. Even if you don’t like it, it’ll force you into liking it, damn it!
Soooo…here we go. Tearing the seal (a challenge ‘cause I just trimmed my nails yesterday), popping the cork, pouring a dram as carefully as if I were serving the Queen. Taking a moment to appreciate the un-colored, un-chill-filtered, 46% beauty of it all. Hard to be a skeptic about this sort of stuff, you understand.
First nose: Wow. A big outdoorsy blast that settles down quickly, then seems to change with each sniff. Citrus, pine, and sea air dominate at first, then I get a big touch of…peat?? I thought the Laddie was unpeated? Were the barrels previously used for peated whiskies, or is this just a by-product of the Islay air? Whatever, it works. It’s just unexpected.
After sitting for a few minutes, it’s soooo much more delicate. Peat tones (or what I imagined to be peat tones) diminish, replaced by a touch of sweet wood smoke trying to break through a whole lot of fresh sea air. Some vanilla. Is that, um, bacon? Light and subtle, but full of secrets. Worthy of further study. A fascinating first nose.
First taste: This may be the slowest, chewiest taste I’ve ever taken of any whisky. I suppose it’s a good sign that I hadn’t planned on doing that.
Arrival is a blend of fruits and candies. Very tasty, unique, even attention-getting, but surprisingly soft. More going on than I can grasp in one taste.
Development: Soft traces of vanilla cake lightly sprinkled with sea salt. Again, surprisingly soft. Very pleasant with ongoing subtle changes.
If I had to stop at this point, I’d say the Laddie is a very satisfying, if not overwhelming, whisky. If the layers aren’t obvious at first, the quality is. During its long time in my mouth, I thought this would a B+plus whisky: good stuff, but let’s see what the Laddie’s got when he’s a teenager.
But then, at long last, came the development. Nice…sharp, spicy, citrus-y. Say, it’s hanging on, isn’t it? Wow, getting hotter, spicier, smokier, more burnt sugar-y. Oh migawd, this is terrific. It just keeps intensifying as the flavors from the arrival and development make a return appearance. I don’t want this to end – and it’s not! There’s still a big sweet-and-bitter woodsy burn that lands soft as a pillow for an encore. And it all lingers around for minutes, slowly floating away on a cotton-candy cloud.
Did I say B+plus whisky? Ha! I now laugh at my youthful naiveté! This Laddie is wise beyond his years. One of the most satisfying first-taste experiences I’ve ever had. I took two sips neat, then three sips after adding water, and kept discovering more to enjoy each time. (Biggest change noticed since first impression: the change from sweet beginning to bitter finish becomes more pronounced as it develops.)
The only semi-negative comment I have is that the Laddie Ten’s youth is both a strength and a weakness. A strength because its mishmash of vague, youthful flavors makes for a surprisingly pleasant experience (as well as another testament to quality). But a weakness because you know those flavors are only going to grow stronger and more defined over time.
Here’s hoping that’s what happens. I didn’t touch upon the recent corporate goings-on at Bruichladdich, mainly because I’m not qualified to comment, and the news is still too new. I just hope there’s plenty of this batch to go around when the Laddie is old enough to vote.